A frequent worry many people have is the side effects of medication, and so it is not unusual for people to try and avoid pills all together when they can. If you suffer from headaches or migraines, acupuncture could be an alternative option to prescription or over-the-counter medication.
Acupuncture, a component of traditional Chinese medicine, involves inserting needles into certain pressure points on the body and has been used for thousands of years to relieve migraines and headaches. In 2002, the World Health Organization, WHO, deemed acupuncture effective for a number of health conditions, including headaches. In fact, researchers discovered recently that acupuncture provides relatively lasting relief from headaches.
How acupuncture works
To achieve better results, acupuncture treatments are generally combined with tui-na massage, Chinese herbs and some specific exercises to create a balance in the body. The good thing is that your treatment can be tailored to fit your needs, which is why several factors are often taken into consideration to help determine the specific treatment that would be recommended for you. Your acupuncturist will ask questions such as where you feel the headache the most; one sided, in your temples or behind your eyes, your sensitivity to light, whether the pain is throbbing, sharp or dull, when it is most intense; morning or night and so on.
These questions will help determine the most ideal treatment for you and also help determine how frequently treatment will be required. Treatment sessions could last anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes and may be done once or twice a week over a set period of time.
For your headache, your acupuncturist will start by inserting small needles into pressure points around your body; your legs, shoulders and arms. While this may be uncomfortable at first, you will most likely relax and may even fall asleep during the course of the treatment, as a lot of people do. You’re probably worried about how safe it is to have needles inserted into your body. For acupuncture and pain or any other medical conditions, for that matter, the risks are minimal as long as you have a professional acupuncturist working with you.
Acupressure points and headaches
Just as root causes such as anxiety, depression, insomnia or even co-occurring medical conditions may differ, different kinds of headaches like migraines, cluster headaches, and sinus headaches are handled with varying pressure points called acupressure points.
- The urinary bladder channel UB10
Acupressure points in the urinary bladder channel, located at the nape of your neck, are usually treated in cases of chronic headaches like tension headaches. The treatment is known to increase alertness and ease fatigue.
- The gallbladder channel GB20
Behind and on either side of the sternocleidomastoid muscle, this pressure point is often used to treat migraines and other headaches and also helps reduce headache-related vision problems.
- The gallbladder channel GB21
Located at a point on your shoulder, halfway between your rotator cuff and spinal cord, this pressure point is also good for treating tension headaches. It also reduces shoulder tension and stiffness in the neck.
- The large intestine pressure point L14
This pressure point is located at the highest point of the area, in the web where the muscle of the index finger and thumb connect. It helps to treat headaches caused by stress and headaches that may result in facial or neck pain.
- The BL2 pressure point
This point is used to treat sinus headaches and can be found at the point above the bridge of your nose, towards the end of your eyebrows.
- The triple energizer point or TE3
Great for temporal headaches, shoulder, neck and upper back pain, the TE3 is the groove behind your knuckles, found in between the ring finger and the little finger.
- The governor vessel or GV20
Found at the top of the head, from the front hairline to the vertex of the head behind, this pressure point is used to treat headaches, clear the head, soothe anxiety and strengthen the back.
- The HN5 point
This point, found near your temple, is used to treat cluster headaches but is very sensitive. Mistakes can lead to fatality, which is why it is only done by the most experienced professionals.
It is important that you consult your doctor if you have headaches or migraines before undergoing acupuncture or any other treatment programs.